Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Hand of God

Somewhere in my youth and childhood I learned a line from a poem incorrectly.  Since those years of innocence, and amidst the turmoils of my life,  I think perhaps my heart created the lines I needed.  While flying home from a recent trip our pilot flew around a spring thunderstorm of boiling cumulus clouds, giving me a moment to whisper the lines and feel my connection to God.

     "Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
     and danced the skies on silvered wings
     and done a hundred things I'd never dreamed 
     then reached out and touched the hand of God."

How many times did I listen to his poem "High Flight" as our old black and white TV signed off at 10:30 at night?  My father would have been in bed reading True Detective Magazines; mother would have been puttering around the kitchen; my little sister in bed sleeping or spying; while I closed my books on homework when the TV signed off. Sometimes I stood and saluted that pilot as he roared through the skies. I felt connected to the loss of human life during the wars, and wondered when we would go to war again and use our "bomb shelter",  buried only a few feet from our den, to survive an atomic attack from Russia.  Fear was never far from our hearts in those days of the Cold War. I needed to know that I could touch the hand of God. 

All of those memories came rushing back when my eyes
imagined touching the hand of God on this flight.  How many times in my life have I reached out for his hand, and it's Always been there for me.  

I thought it best to reread the this poem that I've carried in my heart, for heaven knows a teacher wouldn't want to write something incorrectly!  My apologies to John Gillespie Magee, Jr for learning his beautiful poem incorrectly, but somehow I think he'd understand. He truly must have seen the face of God, not his hand as I did, when he wrote, "put out my hand and touched the face of God." 

"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of -
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

"Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God."

John Gillespie Magee was an American pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force.  In 1941 he'd flown his seventh Spitfire MK I up to 33,000 feet. As he orbited and climbed upward, the words from another poem struck him as he peered into the clouds--To touch the face of God.

Magee completed his verse soon after landing.  He then enclosed the poem (sonnet) in a letter to his parents, dated Sept 3, 1941.  On Dec. 11, 1941 at the age of nineteen his plane crashed during a training flight killing him, but not before he'd touched the face of God, I'm sure. His words and images have lived for generations, and today I feel his words more deeply than ever.

He has truly risen.

The original poem that I listened to on black and white TV can be found on You Tube (click on the link below), along with several version of John Denver's tribute to this poem.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

200+ But Who's Counting?

First, I want to Thank You Dear Readers wherever you live on this planet. Without you my words have no meaning, no life. You are the ones who give breath to these printed words.

And yes, I'm counting and examining the two hundred plus blogs I've written since 2010. I want to see if I've become a better writer; to see what I have learned; to reread and reflect; and to look ahead. Searching through the archives on the right side of the screen I realized that my heart is as random as my head. Many of my blogs, like books in a library, touch our hearts or challenge us, but some ought to be discarded. 

Like birds randomly dropping seeds, my finger slipped on the computer screen, as I searched the archives, and I opened Anna's Angel.  I've moved since I wrote that story, but Anna's Angel still has a place over my grandmother's antique secretary desk. 

With my 50th class reunion still fresh on my mind, I searched through the Miami Memories and found two stories that touched me deeply.  One November I spent several days calling my classmates, listening to their voices, their stories

of laughter and sorrow.  Those Moments that Connect reminded me of my January promise: This year my goal is simple but sincere.  Pick up the phone and call a friend once a week. A phone call connects us to the heart of the person, much like using a puppet to communicate.Goals from the Heart

Another Miami Memory shows the depth of sadness in our family in the one week when our President JFK
Aunt Sissie and grandma
was assassinated and my grandmother died in her sleep. Moments in Time.  

Sonya, Jan, and Jeannette
The tremendous impact of reading on my life can't be measured, and I can always find a moment to tell someone about a good book, relate a story about a story, or sit down and visit a new world created by an author's imagination. There are many Readings and Greetings in the last five years of my blog, but perhaps the list and reflection of our Book Club in Hutchinson tells it best.   It is like Edmund Burke says, "Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting." 
Book Club Celebrates Ten Years

Looking back I can find  stories begging to be told in the oral tradition of  storytelling.  That is, after all, how this
 all began. It is how families stayed connected, and it is how I have reconnected with my family on my mother's and father's side.  Thanks to my grandmother's collection of postcards  about the Clendening family, we now have a thorough shared genealogy file: Consumed by a Story. Through another family post Along the Lonesome Trail, I have met and talked with long lost family members. What memorable moments these stories have given us, one hundred and fifty years later. 

Glancing back to 2010 and 2011 I see what I so dearly miss--those early morning country walks with Lucy. I'm so glad I wrote about those memories, as brief as they might be. They give me reasons to laugh and chuckle at life. I'd forgotten about that little skunk, who's dance captured my heart
 Dancing in the Breeze.  One day a squirrel, in an attempt to out run a horse, instead ran up my leg. Lucy to the rescue still shows the scar of the squirrel on her nose.Walking Pell Mell  I still laugh every time of think of some of these moments. 

What have I learned?  Thanks to comments by my readers, I've learned to increase the size of my font. When our stories connect to the heart  then people relate and feel connected. I've met many new friends and fellow writers online, each with a distinct voice and vision. Their diverse styles, formats, and purposes for writing inspire me and encourage me to continue. 

In the future, I'd like to write more about other people's lives,
walk closer to nature, and continue to explore every aspect that life offers us.

There will always be change, as long as we are still learning. My very first blog, one paragraph long, begins with change and adaption. As difficult as computer programs have been for me to learn, I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to grow and stay connected to the world. Thank you Rosemary Miller for showing me this path. The last lines from my first paragraph readsPractice, repeat, and continue. So this blog will be a study of learning, living, laughing, and loving life with Letty.
NYC December 2015

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Readings and Greetings: One Hundred Years of Marriage

What was your father thinking the night he proposed to your mother? Why did she say yes? 

By the time we ask, all of the compelling details have cooled into whatever myths they've chosen to tell us.  Our grandparents' stories are even more frozen, and the truths of our great-grandparents' unions have perished in the airless memories of the dead.

After reading this note in One Hundred Years of Marriage, I stopped reading the book that evening and pondered all of these questions about my own family. These are the questions that intrigue genealogy storytellers.  

Louise Farmer Smith, who grew up in Norman, Oklahoma explores these questions through the lives of four generations of 'long suffering women' whose marriages produce children, depression, resilience, secrets, betrayal, and memories.  The story is balanced with insights to each couple. No marriage is one-sided, nor is this story. 

Nineteen year old Patty, becomes the caretaker of her mother, Alice, when her mother descends into the darkness of the 'change.' In order to help her little brother better understand what is happening to his mother she walks him through the wooded area out back, with the intention of explaining why their mother
married their father. The story winds back to the weekend her mother drove with her fiance, Cecil Brady, to meet his family in McAlister. Through this retelling Patty begins to understand her mother's darkness, but it is only a fragment of her parent's marriage. 

Story by story the reader discovers the path that each woman chose and why. How did Patty's great-grandmother, a beautiful young woman, become an orphan and fall into such want and desolation. The men, too, have their stories. Young Danny Hale's heart is broken when his mother, once a strong educated woman falls into depression, leaving his father no choice but to take her to the Lincoln Asylum. The Civil War, a generation of families who moved west from Virginia to Nebraska and Oklahoma Territory, to the return of veterans from World War II, are pieces of history that fill this story with love, heartache, angry men, and children who learn to stand on their own.

These are the generations who kept secrets, who kept skeletons in the closet. Louise Farmer Smith imagines what these secrets might have been, and creates one hundred years of family stories that keep the reader inthralled. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Postcards From the Road

What fun to travel the highways across our nation.  Since retirement, the wheels of Jack's pickup have driven through many states on interstate highways and the lesser more colorful roads of America. I'm happy to drive most anywhere, but my old crooked back prefers to fly.

No argument here, we were hungry and found the perfect place.

A place to sleep in Santa Fe brought a warm sunrise and color all around. 

Jack often reminds me, "We can't stop everywhere." 
"But I may not come this way again," I meekly argue.  We may miss a few museums and noted sites, but we store plenty of memories with stops like these.

If you are driving too fast on I-10 in Arizona, you will miss Texas Canyon.  It is a natural hiccup of nature that created

these massive boulders. Rather than a full volcanic eruption it merely bubbled, causing the Little Dragoon Mountains to fold and fault.

We passed right through it before I could get a camera shot, so on the return trip we made a point of stopping, walking, touching, and remembering this unique site. 

 I only wish we had packed a sack lunch. 
Perhaps the hand of God? 

Or is this Hans Solo in the Empire Strikes Back?

When the magma cooled it crystallized into quartz monzonite.  Because it cools slowly monzonite like granite forms much larger quartz crystals that are easy to see. I imagined I was touching the belly of earth when I rubbed my fingers along these stones. 

Nature's balancing act. 

Like Mother Nature, our lives are a balancing act.  It's always refreshing to travel, to visit new places, to meet up with friends, and discover quaint beauties created by God or by the hand of man, but home is where the barking dancing dog greets us with unconditional love.  And family breathes a sigh of relief.